GERMANY – Unilever is launching two pilot trials of warmer ice cream freezer cabinets kicking off this month in Germany with a second pilot to follow in Indonesia next year.

Emissions from retail ice cream freezers account for 10% of Unilever’s value chain greenhouse gas footprint.

The trials aim to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 20-30 % per freezer while maintaining the same quality of the ice cream and consumer experience.

Unilever’s first step is exploring and understanding the freezers at warmer-120C and the energy consumption at this temperature in real life.

The British multinational consumer goods company hopes the launch will be a bigger move, with a current industry standard in many markets at -180C.

Unilever intends to work to ‘warm up’ its last-mile freezer cabinets in a phased approach when the first two pilots are completed and are successful.

It will start supplying its freezer to markets where its last-mile freezer cabinet carbon footprint is highest, to achieve the maximum reductive impact on its own carbon emissions. Unilever owns a fleet of over 3 million point-of-sale freezer cabinets.

Matt Close, President of Ice Cream, Unilever said: “These pilots will provide valuable information on how much energy we can save and how our ice cream products perform in warmer freezers to ensure we deliver the same great-tasting ice cream. We’re actively seeking to collaborate with partners from across the ice cream and frozen food sectors to drive industry-wide change, so the collective positive impact is far greater.”

Following the success of its trials, Unilever hopes other ice cream companies mirror its effort to conserve the environment.

Unilever’s Climate Transition Action Plan sets out the company’s roadmap to reduce these emissions including reducing cabinet energy consumption through innovation of the main technical components.

It also aims to explore programmes that will enable the freezers to be powered by renewable electricity, and work towards ‘warming up’ the cold chain.

The Action plan also targets indirect use-phase emissions associated with their products. These indirect use-phase emissions can be substantial, typically two-thirds of a product’s value chain footprint when they are included in the scope.

Innovations such as plant-based ice cream and using non-dairy fats and proteins have directly contributed to lowering the carbon intensity of Unilever’s product value chains.

‘Warming up’ the cold chain has become Unilever’s pacesetter for achieving net-zero emissions across Unilever’s value chain by 2039.

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